Fort Myers wants river plan rolling


December 2, 2008


by Christina Cepero


The Fort Myers City Council unanimously approved a $708,675 contract Monday with a development team to create a plan for stores, restaurants and possibly a hotel along the Caloosahatchee River.

Mayor Jim Humphrey said he wants the plan to happen, not end up on a shelf like previous plans for the area have.

He supported spending the money after receiving assurances from Acquest Realty Advisors President David Ong and the council of their dedication to redeveloping the 5-acre waterfront site.

Councilman Levon Simms likened not approving the contract to running the ball up and down the field but not scoring.

"I say let's go do this," Simms said. "Let's execute the plan."

Councilman Johnny Streets agreed: "I would rather risk putting people to work than not doing anything."

The city will then have to figure out how to pay for building it.

"If we're going to score, we got to take some money with us," Humphrey said.

The Acquest team will determine financial feasibility and make any necessary adjustments.

Acquest has experience working on public-private partnerships.

"We've selected an outstanding team," Humphrey said.

Acquest is working with design firms HOK Venue and Boorn Partners and local architects Parker Mudgett Smith.

Fort Myers Redevelopment Agency director Don Paight said it will take about a year to do the planning and then up to four years for construction.

So he said the city should take advantage of the economic downturn to do the planning and design.

"This is needed. I agree with staff that the timing is very good for us to do this," said Councilman Randy Henderson.

He said the commercial area would be the last piece of the puzzle to filling the condos on the river.

"To fizzle now would be to abandon our charge, and I think that's worse than a plan sitting on a shelf," Henderson said.

In other riverfront business, Council approved delaying the start of First River Condominiums for one year until Dec. 31, 2009.

Five other planned residential high-rises along the Calooshatchee scheduled to start within 10 months also are asking for extensions.

Council plans to come up with a policy in the spring for all six with regard to extending their start dates for three to five years.